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Her majesty's principal secretaries of state, better known as secretaries of state, are senior
ministers of the Crown Minister of the Crown is a formal constitutional term used in Commonwealth realms to describe a minister of the reigning sovereign or viceroy A viceroy () is an official who runs a polity in the name of and as the representative of the mo ...
in the
Government of the United Kingdom ga, Rialtas na Ríochta Aontaithe sco, Govrenment o the Unitit Kinrick , image = HM Government logo.svg , image_size=220px, date_established = , state = United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, comm ...
. Secretaries of state head most major government departments and make up the majority of the
Cabinet of the United Kingdom The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is a group of the most senior ministers of the crown Minister of the Crown is a formal constitutional term used in Commonwealth realms to describe a minister of the reigning sovereign or viceroy A vic ...
. There are currently 16 different secretaries of state. They are all also currently
members of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people who live in their constituency An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, (election) p ...
.


Legal position

Under the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975, a maximum of 21 secretaries of state can receive a salary. Legislation also generally only refers to "the secretary of state" without specifying which one, but, by virtue of the
Interpretation Act 1978 The Interpretation Act 1978 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, supreme Legislature, legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown ...
, this phrase means "one of her majesty’s principal secretaries of state". Despite there only being one secretary of state in law, in practice, each secretary of state will perforce stay within their own portfolio. Secretaries of state, like other government ministers, are appointed through the
royal prerogative The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege and immunity, recognized in common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi- ...
.


History


Kingdom of England

The origin of the office lays in the office of the king's private secretary. However, by the
Tudor period The Tudor period occurred between 1485 and 1603 in and includes the during the of until 1603. The Tudor period coincides with the dynasty of the in England whose first monarch was (b.1457, r.14851509). Historian (1988) argued that "Englan ...
, the office's purview had become more onerous. In 1539 or 1540, Henry VIII appointed two people to the office. After the
Stuart Restoration The Restoration of the Stuart monarchy The House of Stuart, originally Stewart, was a dynasty, royal house of Kingdom of Scotland, Scotland, Kingdom of England, England, Kingdom of Ireland, Ireland and later Kingdom of Great Britain, Grea ...
, the practice of appointing two secretaries of state resumed. A formal division, in the form of the offices of the
secretary of state for the Northern Department The Secretary of State for the Northern Department was a position in the Cabinet of the government of Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , i ...
and the
secretary of state for the Southern Department The Secretary of State for the Southern Department was a position in the cabinet of the government of the Kingdom of Great Britain The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called Great Britain,"After the political union of England and Sc ...
, was made in 1689, though the office was first divided into the Northern and Southern Department purviews in 1660.


After the Union

In 1782, the arrangement of these offices orally changed, so that one would be responsible for foreign affairs and one for domestic affairs, thus establishing the embryonic offices of
foreign secretary The secretary of state for foreign, Commonwealth and development affairs, also referred to as the foreign secretary, is a Secretary of State (United Kingdom), secretary of state in the Government of the United Kingdom, with overall responsibili ...
and
home secretary The home secretary, officially the secretary of state for the Home Department, is a Secretary of State (United Kingdom), secretary of state in the Government of the United Kingdom, with overall responsibility for all Home Office business. The ...
. Over time, the number of secretaries of states grew, so that there were five in 1900 and 14 by 1996. There are currently 16 different secretaries of state.


Secretary of stateships currently in use


Secretary of stateships no longer in use


Health, education, work, business, energy, environment, transport and the regions

The secretary of stateships that have been used for the matters of health, education, work, business, energy, environment, transport and the regions are shown in the graphic below. It shows how portfolios of responsibilities have been broadly passed down from one secretary of state position to the position(s) directly below it. However, it is impossible for such a graphic to be completely accurate; it cannot show smaller changes, or gains or losses of responsibilities within a position due to changes of responsibilities for the UK Government (for example, due to
devolution Devolution is the statutory A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislature, legislative authority that governs the legal entities of a city, State (polity), state, or country by way of consent. Typically, statutes command or p ...
or
Brexit Brexit (; a portmanteau A portmanteau (, ) or portmanteau word (from "portmanteau (luggage) A portmanteau is a piece of luggage, usually made of leather and opening into two equal parts. Some were large, upright, and hinged at the back and ...

Brexit
). It is not to scale. In the gaps, and before the first of these secretaries of state, relevant responsibilities were taken on by ministers not titled 'Secretary of State'. Key:


Culture

The secretary of stateships that have been used for culture, heritage and sport are as follows:


References

{{Reflist Titles Government occupations Ministerial positions in the Government of the United Kingdom